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Tackling The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: An Interview with Eoin Colfer about "And Another Thing..."

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  (The advance half-copy in the jaws of the carnival dragon in my living room.)

Bestselling young adult author Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing..., part six of Douglas Adam's classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, will be released by Hyperion on October 12th, with a strict embargo on reviews appearing before then. Colfer, according to the press release, "stepped into the late Douglas Adams's shoes to continue the series, at the request of Adams's widow Jane Belsen, who said 'I could not think of a better person to transport Arthur, Zaphod, and Marvin to pastures new." Even hardcore fans would probably admit the last couple books weren't as strong as the first three, and for this reason Colfer may indeed breathe new life into the Hitchhiker's Guide series, the first book of which was published thirty years ago. Still, there's always danger when you pick up where a classic left off, and there's also the curious matter of reviewers being given only half the book (possibly to prevent spoilers.) 

Balanced against that, Colfer's an immensely gifted writer, the bits I've read made me chuckle, and Hyperion has put together some very entertaining material on the site for the book, including the Vogon Constructor Training Game. In the following interview, conducted via email this week, I ask Colfer about And Another Thing..., Vogons, and his favorite character, among other topics, some of them sillier than others (Colfer's a patient man). We'll have more about the book on October 12th.

Eoin Colfer credit Michael Paynter  (Eoin Colfer, photo by Michael Paynter)

Amazon.com:
Please describe for readers where you are while you're answering these questions.

Eoin Colfer:
I am in a small town in Ireland called Wexford, which is a seafaring Viking town where we catch fish with axes and so go hungry most of the time. I am currently in my office which used to be a stable and on a warm day I can still smell horse, though my wife has hinted that it is pretty coincidental that according to me everywhere I go used to be a stable and that maybe I am the problem and not the place that used to be a stable. That sentence has way too many sub-clauses so I have no clue what she's trying to get at.

Amazon.com: Were you aware there are easier ways to potentially receive a massive public beating than attempting to write a book as part of another author's iconic series? Is it just that you've never taken the easy way out?

Colfer: I don't mind the easy way, in fact I have become quite partial to the easy way of late which is one of the reasons I decided that I better take the tough option for once and see if anything worthwhile comes out of it. I now realise that this was intellectual crapola and I will certainly be taking the easy way from now on. To be honest I didn't realise how many potential spankers were out there and how vehement they were. Pray Jesus for decent reviews.

Amazon.com: I'm sitting here with a sad, sad thing: half of a book. Specifically, half of your book, in proof form. Why did someone rip out the second half and then provide an elaborate rationale for why it's missing? Further, I have only your word for it that this is half the book. Is this in fact one-sixteenth of the book?

Colfer: It is a little less than half. I think that having half a book would make me feel like murdering someone, but I hope it's enough to give  you a feel for what I'm trying to do and whether or not you like what I'm trying to do, though a page or two would probably have been enough.

Amazon.com: Again, you were aware that there are easier lots in life than potentially being hounded from safe house to safe house by unruly Hitchhiker fans incensed that you've taken up this particular gauntlet?

Colfer: The only reason I could think of for not writing this book was that there were possibly people who would not want me to do it, so I argued with them in my head for a few days and eventually they came around to my way of thinking.

Amazon.com: Did you have any fragments or notes by Douglas Adams as a starting point for And Another Thing... ?

Colfer: Nope. Nothing. All rash Irishman.

Amazon.com: Did you come across the BBC TV series first or the books? What do you remember about your first encounter with the Hitchhiker's Guide?

Colfer: I came across the books first. One of our fantasy reading circle introduced it to us and we were not impressed by its tiny size and flap plot which seemed a lot like Star Wars- of course then we actually read it and our brains exploded.

Amazon.com: What character came most naturally to you as a writer?

Colfer: I liked Zaphod. A media creature like the Galactic President fits in very nicely in our reality tv, fame obsessed society. It is almost as if modern media driven society developed to have Zaphod in it.

Amazon.com:  Any challenges or difficulties?

Colfer: The story wrote itself nice and sweetly- but I was plagued by all sorts of doubts as soon as I finished it and re-entered the real world. This is not the sort of decision where you just say yes and are 100% confident that you have made the right life changing decision. It's not like will I accept the lottery cheque or not.

Amazon.com:  How different in approach and style is this book compared to your previous books?

Colfer: My approach and style were pretty similar--except for I didn't have to construct characters, they were already there. I did work a lot faster on this one, the way a person might cram down a cream eclair that they really shouldn't be eating. A guilty pleasure. I have to say that I enjoyed writing this book more than I have anything else for a long time and it needed the least editing of anything I have done.

Amazon.com: What contribution to the Guide itself are you most tickled about? 

Colfer: I like this entry which I have paraphrased for you: "Guide Note: This Cyphroles of Sesefras Magna, a gas giant in the Pleiades system, are tiny invertebrate free-swimming gastrozoa who absorb the hostile energy emitted by their predators and use it to power their own systems. This makes the predators angry and so the Cyphroles swim faster through the gas ocean. Sesefras Magna gas dragons have learned to approach the Cyphroles casually, whistling a little tune or pretending to search for a few coins they have mislaid. The Cyphroles always fall for these tricks, as nature gave them large energy filters and tiny bullshit detectors." 

Amazon.com: Assuming you aren't beaten to death by people dressed like Vogons during your book tour, what's up next for you?

Colfer: I don't think Hitchhiker fans dress up much so I probably won't see my assailant coming. But on the off-chance that I pick up some more  kind inches in the press then I will start work on my next Artemis Fowl book. Also I am working on a swing musical with a couple of friends which should be ready next year. Exciting stuff.

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